31 Dec 2013

Grocery Gems Best of 2013!

It's been fun reviewing so many products during 2013, and there was certainly plenty of choice with lots of new releases and limited edition this year. The year seems to have flown by and it's already time to look back and choose my favourite products from the past twelve months. I wonder how many of them will still be around into 2014? 

Click on the product name to read the original review. I hope you agree with some of my choices but don't forget to let me know what your top picks of the year have been too!

Best Chocolate:

I might as well start with the most important category! I review more Chocolate than anything else so it was very hard to choose my favourite. This Ritter Sport Kokos was chosen as their variety of the year, and it was quite simply the most delicious coconut chocolate bar I've ever tried. A special mention must go to the Lindt Hello My Name Is Cookies & Cream, the M&S Dulce de Leche Truffles, and the Duke of Delhi Milk Chocolate & Indian Cinnamon for all being unforgettably delicious too. There were a lot of 10 out of 10's for chocolate in 2013!

Best Biscuit:

I still turn to this Border Biscuits Sharing Pack if I ever need biscuits for a special occasion. They're full of flavour, melt in the mouth, gorgeousness!

Best Drink: 

An original and unique concept but one that works incredibly well. This new peanut butter hot drink from Peanut Hottie is now a permanent fixture on my shopping list.

Best Cake:

Again, there was lots of choice in this category but I went for a fairly recent product as my winner. The Tesco Finest Red Velvet Cake has lots of wow factor and is sure to be a hit for any celebration. I hope this one sticks around throughout 2014.

Best Dessert:

Layers of peanut butter mousse, caramel sauce, dark chocolate ganache and shortbread biscuit crumb, made this my dream dessert.

 Best Sweet:

These made me feel like a big kid. Cola bottle sweets with a liquid cola filling - sheer brilliance from Haribo!

Best Ice Cream: 

Ben & Jerry's Core Blondie Brownie

The sea salted caramel core makes this my top ice cream pick from 2013. It's so good that I've barely wanted to try any other tubs of ice cream. If it's an ice cream treat then it has to be Blondie Brownie.

Best Sauce/Condiment:


One of my favourite new finds of 2013 was the Aivar from the Pelagonia Range. It's a delectable combination of roasted sweet red peppers and aubergines.

Best Crisps:

I loved these limited edition Mozzarella & Pesto Kettle Chips, and it seems I wasn't alone as they were so popular they've been made part of Kettle Chips permanent range.

Best Yogurt: 

2013 saw an abundance of super thick strained yogurts being released into the market. There are many delicious ranges to choose from including Fruyo and Chobani. The Danio range is my favourite, and the Cherry flavour in particular! Special mention also goes to Activia Intensely Cream Coconut Temptation and the Collective Dairy Banoffi yogurts.

Best Snack:

Super tasty and low in calories too, this is one snack I know I'll be buying a lot more of next year.

That's it from me for this year! I hope that 2013 has been a good one for you all. Here's to a snack filled 2014 :)

Happy New Year!

30 Dec 2013

Review: Hello Kitty Bread Bun

Super cuteness alert! My husband bought me this Hello Kitty bread bun to cheer me up today and honestly he couldn't have picked a better surprise! I've had some dodgy looking Hello Kitty food products in the past (especially these Hello Kitty Ice Lollies!), but this character bread is absolutely gorgeous looking and a very successful reproduction of the famous kitty in bread form! It's a very large sweetened bread bun, filled with a chocolate cream.

Isn't she just adorable? Almost too good to eat... almost.

I feel compelled to show off the back of the bread bun because I think it looks impressive even from this angle.

I didn't want to do this, but I had to chop her in half to photograph the filling. Sorry HK! The filling is a yummy chocolate custard cream.

I really did enjoy this bread bun, the dough is super soft with a slight sweetness, very similar to other Japanese sweet bread buns I've tried (usually filled with plain custard). It's a bit like a brioche only less buttery. The filling was very fresh tasting with a custard creaminess and sweet chocolate flavour. It complimented the soft bread very well, but I'd also like to try a version of this without any filling at all. I just loved the bread part! 

My husband bought this from the Japan Centre concession at Westfield Shopping Centre in Stratford. They also have a few other locations in London and are well worth a visit. Apparently there were some other character bread buns available too.

Grocery Gems: Hello Kitty Bread Bun

RATING: 10 out of 10.
Buy them again?: Absolutely.
Ingredients: Wheat flour, water, sugar, egg, butter, glucose, yeast, skimmed milk powder, salt, milk chocolate, custard powder.
Purchased: Japan Centre www.japancentre.com
Price: £1.99.

29 Dec 2013

Quick Review: Cofresh Quinoa Chips

Apologies for the lack of regular posts recently. I've been quite ill for awhile now and it's been difficult to find time for blogging. Hopefully that will change over the next few weeks. Anyway, onto today's review. Cofresh offer a very extensive range of snacks and I've been keen to try one of their newest savoury snacks, the Quinoa Chips. These are a super grain snack made with quinoa, corn and rice flour, in a Sundried Tomato & Roasted Garlic flavour.

Texture wise these are very similar to a puffed corn snack, nice and light, with a decent crunch. The snacks have a wavy shape which means the flavouring can be a bit uneven. However, they certainly have a very enjoyable flavour. The sweet sundried tomato really comes through along with a light garlic taste. They're very moreish and don't feel too greasy or heavy. I will definitely be purchasing these again. 

Grocery Gems: Cofresh Quinoa Chips

RATING: 8 out of 10.
Buy them again?: Absolutely.
Vegetarian: Suitable for vegetarians and vegans.
Purchased: Whole Foods Market
Price: It was a few weeks ago now so I can't quite remember, but around £1.49.

27 Dec 2013

Review: Fox's Hazelnut Caffè Slices

I've been enjoying Fox's range of Caffè biscuits, which were developed as the ideal accompaniment to a cup of coffee. There are three types of biscuit in the range Snaps, Thins and Slices, each in a choice of two flavours, inspired by popular coffee syrup flavours; Caramel or Hazelnut. 

The Hazelnut Caffè Slices are shortcake biscuits covered in a thick layer of hazelnut flavoured milk chocolate on one side. Fox's are a brand well known for their delicious chocolate biscuits so I had high hopes for these.

Chocolate and hazelnut is a classic combination and it works a charm in these Hazelnut Caffè Slices, especially when combined with the slightly buttery and vanillary flavour of the shortcake biscuit underneath. Each biscuit is very chunky and indulgent, a good thing since there are only six biscuits in a pack. Overall, these are indeed a great biscuit for a cup of coffee, but are equally satisfying with a cup of tea too.

Grocery Gems Verdict: Fox's Hazelnut Caffè Slices

RATING:  8.5 out of 10.
Buy them again?: Yes.
Nutrition (per biscuit): 123 calories.
Vegetarian: Suitable for Vegetarians.
Purchased: Tesco. 
Price: £1.89 each.

25 Dec 2013

Haribo Frohe Weihnachten - Merry Christmas!

These very festive Haribo Frohe Weihnachten (Merry Christmas) consist of various Christmas themed foam backed sweets.

I know that Haribo does some cute Christmas bagged sweets in the UK, usually featuring snowmen and/or Santa, but I still couldn't resist the charms of this Frohe Weihnachten selection.

There are various Christmas shapes, such as reindeer, various toys, and Christmas trees (my favourites were the green Christmas trees - so cute. The flavours are all good, and pretty much what you would expect from Haribo. The orange and yellow are fairly standard citrus flavours, the green sweets are sweet apple, whilst the red ones seemed to be cherry flavoured. Each sweet had a surprisingly firm texture, making these slightly chewier than regular Haribo. However, they were still very enjoyable, and we all loved the shapes.

And to everyone who reads this blog, thank you for all your support and I would like to wish you all:

A Very Merry Christmas x

Grocery Gems Verdict: Haribo Frohe Weihnachten

RATING: 7 out of 10.
Buy them again?: Yes.
Purchased: German grocery store - Borough Market.
Price: £1.50p.

23 Dec 2013

Review: Our Honest Foods Snackorium Box

The Snackorium subscription box from Our Honest Foods, promises to deliver a box of delicious snacks that will not only tempt your taste buds but also highlight independent British producers at the same time. It's a fabulous idea and I was excited to be asked to review a box. I seriously couldn't wait for my Honest Snackorium to arrive! 

Each box is slim enough to fit through standard post boxes but still large enough to be crammed full of goodies. The December box I received had a lovely gift box appearance with an apt Merry Christmas message on the front. Each Snackorium is priced at £9.99 including postage and packaging, which is very reasonable compared to other subscription food boxes I've tried. I also love the fact that this one is snack based, meaning that everything in the box is ready for chowing! 

There was also a great selection of sweet and savoury snacks. Some of the sweeter products included these Clearly Scrumptious Simply Cranberries and Cocoa Loco Organic Dark Chocolate Buttons. The Clearly Scrumptious Cranberries are full of flavour and a perfect addition to this festive Snackorium box. They're great for snacking as they contain one of your five a day, but I'm planning on using the rest of mine for some Christmas bakes. The Cocoa Loco Dark Chocolate buttons are made using the finest single origin beans in the Dominican Republic. These large buttons are suitable for vegetarians and vegans and I really enjoyed their rich dark flavour. I'll be recommending the Cocoa Loco brand to my vegan brother.

I've always wanted to try some fudge from the Wonky Kitchen so I was delighted to find this adorably packaged Raspberry & White Chocolate Fudge in the Snackorium box.

The fudge is super soft and melt in the mouth, with a creamy and sweet white chocolate flavour that perfectly compliments the gloriously fruity raspberry. This really is like no other fudge I've tried before and I can't wait to try more from the Wonky Kitchen.

This Wild Trail Apple & Raspberry Yogurt Popcorn Bar was another highlight. As both a popcorn and cereal bar addict, this product seemed to be made for me!

It's a large bar that is bursting with popcorn, fruit, and seeds, all topped with a yogurt coating. I've shown the underneath of one half in the photo above so you can see the generous amount of these ingredients. I found this Wild Trail bar to be extremely delicious, very sweet and fruity. I'll certainly be looking out for other products from the Wild Trail range in future.

The savoury selection was especially scrumptious with these Tyrrell's Alternatives Habas Fritas and Hoots Cheese & Onion multigrain snacks.

Part of the fun of subscription boxes is trying out new products that I've never come across before. I loved these Hoots Cheese & Onion Multigrain Snack made by wonderfully named, The Wise Owl Snack Company. These baked snacks are made with mature cheddar and onion, and contained a mix of wholegrains and seeds - an altogether delicious combination! 

The Tyrrell's Habas Fritas are made from fried broad beans sprinkled with a little salt and chilli powder. Broad beans are a fairly typical snack in Spain and Portugal but I've never tasted them like this before. They're completely addictive little morsels that make a very moreish snack.

Lastly there was also a sachet of Organic Rooibos tea from the award winning Tea Studio. I've reviewed  rooibos (redbush) tea before and it's one of my absolute favourite teas. It has an earthier deeper flavour compared to black tea, but still works well with milk. Rooibos tea is also naturally caffeine free and high in antioxidants. This organic version from the Tea Studio is simply divine, it has a full bodied and satisfying flavour.

Overall, I was more than happy with the selection I received from the Honest Snackorium box, and I highly recommend it both as a snacking treat and as a unique gift idea. It's brilliant that this box highlights British products and introduces many high quality brands. I especially enjoyed the map printed on the inside of the box which pointed out where all my lovely goodies had come from around Britain!

Grocery Gems: Honest Snackorium

RATING: 10 out of 10.
Buy them again?: Absolutely.
Purchased: Find them online at http://www.ourhonestfoods.com/.
Price: £9.99 per month.

22 Dec 2013

Costa Coffee Black Forest Hot Chocolate & Monin Festive Syrup Set!

I've tried quite a few of the festive drinks on offer at Costa Coffee (see my post here) and finally got around to trying the Black Forest Hot Chocolate. I know this has been around in previous years but this is the first time I've tried one. As you can see from my picture I had mine without cream. There was cherry syrup on top but it had mostly sunk through the foam. And there was a LOT of foam, almost a third of the drink. 

Despite that, I really did enjoy the flavour here. The cherry and chocolate combination is a real winner, especially from the cherry syrup on top. Strangely enough Costa Coffee use a Blackberry flavour Monin syrup within the coffee itself, but it still recreates a Black Forest flavour successfully. Overall this is a very delicious hot chocolate and I can see why it has been so popular for Costa Coffee. 

And if you want to recreate Costa Coffee's Christmas menu at home, such as the Toffee Nut Latte, Salted Caramel Latte, or indeed the Black Forest Hot Chocolate, then look out for the new Monin Festive Coffee Syrups set instore. It includes five Monin syrup bottles in the following flavours; Blackberry, Honeycomb, Gingerbread, Salted Caramel, and Toffee Nut. It's a great gift idea for any coffee (or hot chocolate) fan. I can't wait to recreate my favourite Salted Caramel Latte!

21 Dec 2013

Review: Asda Chocopolitan Cake

December is not just associated with Christmas for me, there are also a few family birthdays to celebrate too! It was my Mum's birthday earlier this month and we got her this super cute (I love the shabby chic flowery packaging!) Asda Chocopolitan Cake. It's described as a chocoholics dream, with rich chocolate sponge and frosting, topped off with milk chocolate cupcakes.

Isn't it adorable? It's a large cake, and the chocolate cupcakes on top are very generously sized too.

The chocolate cake was very tasty with a moist sponge, sweet chocolate buttercream, that is packed full of chocolately flavour. All the chocoholics amongst us were very happy indeed! Of course, I couldn't resist also trying one of the chocolate cupcakes. It has a solid chocolate case that is filled with a sweet buttercream icing that is quite firm in consistency. This is as sugary sweet as it looks, but somehow is fitting with the cuteness of the cake. Overall this is a lovely cake and I hope it's still around when it's time for my birthday next year!

Grocery Gems: Asda Chocopolitan Cake

RATING: 9 out of 10.
Buy them again?: Yes.
Purchased: Asda.
Price: £10.00.

20 Dec 2013

Top Ten Tips for a Christmas Cheeseboard

Port Salut is one of my favourite cheeses so I was very happy to be asked to share this post from renowned cheese expert Juliet Harbutt. With over 25 years in the business, Juliet founded Jeroboams - London's finest wine and cheese shop and also went on to create The British Cheese Awards in 1994. Today she writes for the Guild of Food Writers and was previously awarded Best Food Book in 2010 for her World Cheese Book.

Here are her top ten tips for pulling together a show-stopping centre piece this Christmas:

Top Ten Tips for a Festive Cheeseboard

  • A slate or marble cheeseboard is great for creating a lasting impression
  • Avoid dressing with grapes and instead decorate your cheeseboard with a few autumnal leaves or sprigs of holly for a festive feel
  • Ideally a cheeseboard should have 5 – 10 magnificent cheeses, preferably at least one from each of the seven categories and at least one goat or ewe
  • Offer a range of shapes  logs, wedges, cylinders, squares  and cut blocks of cheese into different shapes for an attractive finish
  • Order your Stilton weeks in advance, as you would a turkey and ideally buy cheeses you have tasted and had cut at the deli from the original cheese. Buy your soft pre-packed cheeses as near to their best before date as possible for the best taste
  • Before serving ensure all the cheeses have come to room temperature – a slither will take 5 minutes and whole Brie will take at least an hour so best to serve similar sized portions
  • Avoid very brittle or strong flavoured biscuits as they can overpower the cheese; instead serve with oat cakes or rustic breads that allow you to experience the full texture and tastes of the cheese
  • The accompaniments should complement not over power your cheeses, so try pickled walnuts, savoury (not over sweet) or spicy chutney, nuts, dried fruit or fresh apples or pears
  • As well as wine, beer & cider also go very well with most types of cheese so encourage guests to have fun experimenting with their pairings
  • Ideally store your cheese in a larder otherwise keep them refrigerated in a sealed plastic box, wrapped in their original wrapping or greaseproof paper

Visit the Port Salut website at www.portsalut.co.uk for Juliet’s downloadable cheese guide, listing all her cheese recommendations for the perfect Christmas board. 

18 Dec 2013

Review: Tesco Finest Red Velvet Cake

My husband is a big fan of red velvet cake, and his birthday last weekend, gave me the perfect excuse to buy this gorgeous Tesco Finest Red Velvet cake. I've been casting a longing glance at it every time I pass through the bakery aisle! I'll let the photos mostly speak for themselves here, as this cake is a real beauty.

The cake features a red velvet sponge, with delightfully swirled cream cheese frosting and decorated with red crumb topping.

From the first slice I could see this cake had just the gorgeous dark red colour I was hoping for - and it also had a lovely flavour to match! The sponge is moist and sweet with a subtle cocoa flavour, perfectly complimented by the sweet and tangy cream cheese frosting. It's a delicious cake that is comparable to similar (but much more expensive!) red velvet cakes I've tried previously, and it certainly looks very impressive for any special celebration.

Grocery Gems: Tesco Finest Red Velvet Cake

RATING: 10 out of 10.
Buy them again?: Yes.
Purchased: Tesco.
Price: £10.00.

17 Dec 2013

Quick Review: Asda Cinnamon Elf Bites (Oaty Stars)

Asda has been fantastic for cinnamon flavoured treats this Christmas, but my favourites by far are these Cinnamon Elf Bites. These are described as crunchy cinnamon oat cookies sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. They're free from artificial colours, flavours or hydrogenated fats, and can be found in the Bakery section at a bargain £1.00 for 12 cookies. 

These biscuits have a gorgeous texture. They're quite crumbly and melt in the mouth, but still have a deliciously crunchy bite too. The cinnamon flavour is just lovely - very strong, and goes well with the oaty cookie base. A great biscuit for cinnamon fans and perfect with a cup of tea too! :)

Grocery Gems: Asda Cinnamon Elf Bites

RATING: 8 out of 10.
Buy them again?: Yes.
Vegetarian: Suitable for Vegetarians.
Purchased: Asda.
Price: £1.00.

Japanese Sweets Round Up: Puccho, Hi-Chew & More

I've been trying out some gorgeous Japanese sweets courtesy of Oyatsu Cafe. If you've never tried any sweets from the Hi-Chew or Puccho brands then I highly recommend giving them a go. The flavours and textures are always of a high standard and very tasty. It also helps that the packaging is super cute too!

The first candy I tried was this watermelon flavoured gummy stick. I'm not usually a fan of melon or watermelon flavoured sweets so I didn't expect to enjoy this one, but I was pleasantly surprised by just how yummy it is!

The watermelon flavour is surprisingly sweet and fresh tasting, there is no artificial edge or aftertaste with these. I couldn't resist eating the whole thing in one go, it's incredibly moreish. Rating: 9 out of 10.

Next are the individually wrapped gummy sweets; Hi-Chew Apple, Hi-Chew Strawberry and the Puccho Peach Plum.

The Puccho Peach Plum is a gorgeously peach scented sweet that hides a little sour surprise in the middle - it's infused with extra sweets! It's so sweetly peachy but has a really tangy flavour from the plum candies nestled in the centre. Again, I absolutely loved these sweets, they're so unique and completely delicious too. Rating: 10 out of 10.

The Hi-Chew varities offer a much sweeter candy with plenty of chewiness and full fruity flavour. It's worth trying Hi-Chew just for the extreme chewy nature of the sweets, which lasts for much longer than regular sweets. I enjoyed both the Strawberry and the Apple flavour, they're both spot on with an authentic flavour and very satisfying. Rating 8 out of 10. I've also previously reviewed the Hi Chew Golden Kiwi HERE

Take a look at Oyatsu Cafe for all their newest and limited edition Japanese snacks! 

Don't forget you can use the discount coupon GROCERYGEMS for 15% discount off any Oyatsu Cafe order. 

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